|'Is Photography Art?'||13 February 2018|
Colin Tracy ARPS came to Devizes Camera Club to ask “Is Photography Art? - or is it imply technique.
Introducing himself, he said he envisaged his presentation as being participatory and started by asking the audience a series of questions: What is Art? Can photography be artistic? What makes it artistic? Does image manipulation make it more or less artistic?
Contributions from the audience suggested that, to be artistic, an exhibit should provoke a reaction, should tug at ones’ emotions and should be moving in some way. However, it was pointed out that some “art”, while provoking reaction, did not otherwise affect people emotionally. Examples included Damien Hurst’s work and an exhibit of carpet offcuts at the Guggenheim in Spain. Although, judging by these outburst, there did seem to have been some emotion was involved.
Colin explained that he has been a Buddhist for about 30 years and that the disciplines imposed through meditation and contemplation have influenced his photography. He tries to be clear-minded in what he sees, looking beyond the object of focus to see things as they really are, in terms of colour, texture, movement and light.
Colin follows a contemplative path to his photography, often capturing spontaneous images as a result of a “flash of inspiration”. Many of these are abstract images that confuse the viewer’s eye as they struggle to see what they are. Colin is often reluctant to tell the story behind the image to the point of refusing to give them titles. He prefers people to react to what they see rather than the mundane explanation of the objects involved.
He showed a number of images to illustrate this issue and asked the audience “How does this image make you feel?”. Reaction to this question showed a certain amount of confusion as different perspectives were expressed from different people. This was particularly true of a monochrome image of swan’s feathers floating on water.
Other images, which Colin did expand on, included close-ups of a gnat on the surface of water in a glass tumbler and a willow leaf embedded in a frozen compost bin (right). A reflection of a tree in a stream in the New Forest (above) was intriguing for the levels of nature it presented. There was light on the orange bed of the stream, objects floating on the surface, the tree in reflection, and beyond that, the blue of the sky.
To illustrate that good art, whatever the medium, should show some profundity, he had images of a Koi Carp feeding frenzy, raindrops on a pond with an orange streak (fish?), and a reflection of a tree with a floating leaf appearing to cling to a reflected branch (left).
Colin told us about his Art Exchange project in which he and some artist friends work together and swap ideas and inspiration. They paint from his photographic images and he takes images of their work, juxtaposing them with everyday objects. He, himself, had painted from images he had taken of ponies in a snowstorm (one of his best sellers) and of Carrick Castle.
He showed some creative images, asking if creative photography is more artistic. These included an image of the Earth juxtaposed against a dandelion seed-head, half a dandelion seed-head against a bright red background and close-ups of magnolia leaves presented in a triptych.
When asked about his favorite genre, he said “Whatever catches the eye”. And he certainly showed us a wide range of different subjects, from wonderful moody landscapes and monochrome seascapes through flowers and plants to insects and pictorial images. All of these images had a quality beyond mere technical excellence and illustrated that composition and light help the presentation of an artistic image.
A further series of abstract images leading to his final photo, that of a seated Buddha, brought this fascinating presentation to a close.
The Chairman thanked Colin for sharing his insights with us and suggested that many of the audience will have been inspired to think a little differently about their photography. DF